This weekend many congregations will be celebrating the “Baptism of Our Lord,” focusing on the gospel story of Jesus’ baptism and offering a renewal of baptismal vows as a response to the Word. This renewal ceremony can be rather elaborate, with sung calls and responses remembering all the ways the Bible’s sacred story of God’s salvific ways involve water. Then comes a dramatic pouring of water into the baptismal font and an invitation for all who have already been baptised to once again publicly renew their vows (made on their behalf if they were baptized as infants) to renounce evil, confess Jesus as Lord, and remain faithful to the church universal. Finally, the renewees are then invited to come forward and touch or be sprinkled with water, receive a blessing to “remember your baptism and be thankful” and receive perhaps a token of remembrance like a shell or glass bead or match stick.
It’s all quite solemn and stately. Beautiful and deeply meaningful for many.
And that is all well and very good!
In addition, however, may The Comic Lens suggest you honor and remember your baptism by taking some time to watch some “funny baptisms” videos on YouTube. Watch kids about to be fully dipped into the baptismal pool slip and drag their pastor into the pool, too; watch an excited young baptizee cannonball into the font; watch another do the happy breaststroke stage right after receiving the sacred blessing. Wacky stuff!
While it seems most baptism bloopers that the camera catches involve older children and adults, that’s not to say it can be very funny when infants receive the sacrament, too!
I have a clergy friend who tells the story of a baptism she was doing on Easter Sunday. The baptizee was a toddler who was wearing large, thick-soled shoes. When she took him in her arms to put water on his head he kicked her so hard she fell against the altar and tipped over some lit candles. As the congregation shrieked, the folks in front scrambled to make sure nothing caught on fire. This was especially dodgy since the altar and environs were of course crammed with Easter lilies!
From my own experience, I smile remembering the many times I’ve taken a baby in my arms and the moment and I touch their heads with water they start crying. Really letting ‘er rip. They might start kicking, too. Nothing that’s caused anything to catch fire, though. So far. It always gets a good laugh when I tell the congregation it’s clear that the Holy Spirit indeed made entrance!
Yes, it’s good to remember funny baptisms this weekend. It’s good to remember what it’s like when, in the midst of impeccably performed super-significant ritual chaos, mess, mistakes and embarrassment suddenly ensue. Fortunately, no one is hurt and the gift is effectively bestowed in any case.
It’s good to remember funny baptisms because they help remind us that this is the way of Christian life. As perfectly ordered and proper as we may wish it to be, think it needs to be, mess and chaos and unexpected interferences and delights never cease to make themselves known and turn everything upside-down, and often hilariously so. We shouldn’t be afraid to laugh when such things happen and give God thanks for the opportunity to remember amazing grace is always there, and especially in the screw-ups.
Another reason it’s good to remember funny baptisms on Baptism of Our Lord Sunday (or Saturday) because, really, Jesus’ baptism is at its core, a comical story.
Overtly expressed in the gospel of Matthew and then implied in Mark and Luke is a scenario not unlike a modern-day baptismal blooper video. In both, the baptizer, who is the high-status character charged with controlling and conducting the sacrament, is completely upstaged by the antics (whether intentional or inadvertent) of the lower-status initiate. And that’s funny!
Jesus, who should be baptizing, comes to John asking that the Baptist baptize him. This turning of tables is startling and catches the otherwise know-it-all Baptist off-guard. (John’s look, I can’t help but think, is not unlike what we see on the faces of the pastors who are trying to baptize a little girl who keeps enthusiastically leaping up and down in the water or the one who is trying to deal with the cannon-baller.) And afterwards, the sudden descent of the dove-shaped Holy Spirit flame and the blast of God’s bold and blessing voice must have startled like what happened when my friend knocked over candles or the infant when lifted out of the bowl started not only screaming but streaming.
The biblical accounts, like those of modern faith life, are messy, chaotic, surprising, and delightful. Funny. Again, a harbinger of what awaits on the journey of faith about to be undertaken.
Perhaps that’s why, as a token of remembrance of the baptismal vow, it might be even better to give out these.
Even if they’re quite a bit more expensive than shells or matchsticks....
Okay, one more funny baptism video I just can resist sharing: